CHICAGO (CBS) — President Donald Trump will be on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to meet with Republicans, as the House prepares to vote on two competing immigration bills.
The meeting comes amid a growing political firestorm over the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy of separating children from their families while parents are prosecuted for crossing the border illegally.
Trump has falsely claimed his administration is forced to separate children from their families, blaming Democrats for a law he claims he hates. However, there is no such law requiring the practice. Attorney General Jeff Sessions himself announced the change in policy last month.
That shift has led to asylum seekers who previously would have been released pending a hearing to be held behind bars, while their children are sent to separate shelters.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen has defended the practice.
“No more free passes. No more get out of jail free cards. No more lawlessness,” she said.
Sessions also has defended the zero tolerance policy, saying it’s about deterrence.
“Hopefully people will get the message, and come through the border at the port of entry, and not break across the border unlawfully,” he said.
Some Republicans, like U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, of Texas, have planned legislation to halt the family separation policy.
“Kids need their moms and dads, and we can keep the families together while these cases are pending,” Cruz said.
Democrats are skeptical.
“As long as President Trump insists on being a hardliner on immigration, it will be quite difficult for there to be consensus bipartisan legislation,” U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Delaware) said.
The White House has demanded more comprehensive immigration legislation that includes funding for Trump’s border wall.
“If the Democrats would sit down, instead of obstructing, we could have something done very quickly,” Trump said.
However, every Senate Democrat has co-sponsored legislation that would prevent the president from keeping the family separation policy in place. No Republicans have yet endorsed the Democrats’ “Keep Families Together Act.”
Republicans have written their own immigration bills that will get a vote in the House sometime this week. At least one would still require children to be detained, but in the same facility as their parents.